Your Guide to The Good Earth: Discussion Questions
1. Talk about the way Wang Lung thinks about and treats his sons. How do you feel this shows either cultural or generational differences? Do you feel his sons deserve the treatment they get?
2. Wang Lung spends a lot of time justifying to himself the way he treats his wife. Talk about why you think he doesn't simply treat her with more fairness or kindness until she is on her deathbed.
3. Discuss the conversation between O-lan and Wang Lung on pages 239–240. How has their dynamic changed? How do you feel about O-lan suggesting her son should be sent away?
4. Why do you suppose the author chose to draw out O-lan's death when so many other actions in the novel are very swift? Discuss your final feelings about O-lan.
5. Wang Lung is described as "rich and powerful and a man of good heart," yet he begins to buy slaves in lieu of land. (p. 283) What do you think about this practice, especially in relation to what you know about Wang Lung's attachment to the land? Is your answer culturally biased?
6. Much of the latter part of the novel is taken up with death, marriage and procreation. Discuss what you have learned from this book about the Chinese culture in relation to these major life milestones.
7. Despite the many mistakes he has made in his lifetime, Wang Lung has wise words for his sons in his final days. How do you read the novel's ending, where the brothers seem to have other plans than their father's instructions?
8. In many ways, we are privy to Wang Lung's entire lifecycle in this novel. Talk about how different he is in old age as compared to when he first married O-lan.
9. Think about how the characters' relationship with money impacts the course of critical scenes. Who do you feel has the best relationship with money?
10. As you finish the book, make a list of the two characters you found most admirable and redeeming, and the two you found least so. Discuss how the author's moral message seems to play out in the natures of her characters and their struggles.
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